By Month > January 2013

Kitchen Essentials: Make a Hearty and Easy Meal

January 10, 2013
There's nothing quite like the aroma of a bountiful meal flowing throughout the home. The simple act of cooking  molds a house into a home as families and friends gather over a good meal while memories are made through laughter and delicious, heartwarming food.

The formation of a well balanced kitchen lies within the essentials and basics.  Every kitchen should have the tried and true staples that make a home kitchen functional.  Although kitchen essentials vary depending on the preferred style of food, the basics provide an essential foundation.

A well stocked kitchen is beneficial for those last minute meals that seem to creep upon us after a long work day.  Basic shelf stable vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, onions, scallions, and garlic provide a hearty and tasty foundation to a meal.  Ginger keeps fresh in the refrigerator for several weeks and can provide a bright and fresh flavor to dishes.

Pasta, rice, beans and grains (such as red lentils, wheat berries and quinoa) add a basic but healthy carbohydrate to a balanced meal and can easily be jazzed up with vegetables and meats.  Canned tomatoes are good to have on hand for cooked dishes or sauces, salads and casseroles, especially when tomatoes are out of season.   Bullion (chicken, beef, or veggie), is beneficial to keep stocked for use in soups, seasonings, casseroles and marinades.

Gone are the days of adding salt and pepper to a dish to create flavor.  Herbs and kitchen spices bring life to a good homemade meal without adding calories.  There are a few guidelines to follow when storing and using herbs:

•    If dried herbs come in a clear container, be sure to store them in a cool, dark area.
•    Dried herbs have a stronger flavor than fresh herbs.  If a recipe calls for fresh herbs and you only have dried available, simply reduce the amount to 1/3 less.
•    Dried herbs lose flavor overtime.  Store them properly and they can last up to a year.  If you are in doubt of the flavor, smell them before use, if there is no smell, they are past their prime.

[caption id="attachment_23" align="alignnone" width="263"]Be sure to stock up on spices in the kitchen. A little spice and herb can make all the difference in flavor. Be sure to stock up on spices in the kitchen. A little spice and herb can make all the difference in flavor.[/caption]

Simple baking basics to keep readily available: butter, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and flour.  Some of these ingredients equally apply to cooking.  Flour can be used as a thickening agent while butter is beneficial while sautéing.

Olive oil is a standard in most kitchens today and has a versatile base of uses:  cooking, greasing pans, seasoning cast iron pans, salad dressing base, or a healthful alternative to butter.  Olive oil has endless uses and is extremely beneficial in a home kitchen.  With the addition of lemons, the mixture of olive oil and lemon juice and a dash of those herbs will create a wonderful salad dressing.  The acid in a lemon offers a delightful way to enhance dishes that may seem a bit flat.

Stocking and storing kitchen essentials alleviates the last minute need to dash to the local grocery store for items that can easily be stored in your home kitchen.  These simple fundamentals provide a plentiful base of kitchen spices and ingredients that can easily be incorporated into many meals. Read More...

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